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My Favorite Week – Epilogue

To Recap:

In 1984, I was lucky enough to spend a few days as the ‘handler’ of Vincent Price at a retrospective of his films in New Haven, Connecticut, as Mr. Price was honored by Yale University. Like the fictional character Benjy Stone in “My Favorite Year,” I found my appreciation only increased – along with my respect – the longer I spent in the company of this tall, exceptionally suave and cultured movie star.

 

 

My Favorite Week – Epilogue

The Vincent Price Retrospective reached its conclusion with Mr. Price’s favorite film, the 1944 classic, “Laura.” After honoring his requests for more obscure or genre fare, it was great to see the actor at his youthful best. Before the movie started, Mr. Price stood on the stage in the Yale Art Gallery Auditorium and, predictably, thanked the crowd for honoring him in such a fashion. Then he launched into a Hollywood reminiscence about the film we were about to see.

“You may not know it,” Mr. Price began, “but the movie “Laura” was made twice. The first time was when Rouben Mamoulian directed it and Otto Preminger produced. It was a wonderful time,” he said. “I loved Gene Tierney, and Clifton Webb, Judith Anderson and Dana Andrews. And we all loved Rouben.” He paused for effect. “But Otto Preminger didn’t like it, fired Rouben, and decided to direct it himself. Well, once again, I got to work with all those wonderful actors. I loved Dana, and Dana loved Gene, and Gene loved Judith and…” his voice deepened, “we all ‘liked’ Otto.”

The retrospective eventually ended, and a fairly large group of faculty, staff and others had a ‘last night’ dinner with Mr. Price at a nearby Italian restaurant; there must’ve been 14 people squeezed into a circular table meant for 6 or 8, and everybody wanted Mr. Price’s attention. He held forth, telling stories and answering questions, all the while signing autographs and thanking his fans for their support over the years. Feeling warm in the throng and desiring a cigarette, I went outside as the meal wound down. A clearly tipsy fellow passed by walking a tiny dog, and I made a silly joke under my breath, but apparently the man overheard me and was instantly ‘in my face.’ We exchanged a few words, then he lurched on down the street. Exiting the restaurant, Mr. Price had seen the whole thing. Using a by-now familiar gesture for a cigarette, he asked me what had happened. I said “Gee, Mr. Price, I just made a dumb joke and he got all offended.” Mr. Price looked at me and said, “Barrett, don’t ever argue with a drunk!” Then he smiled, put his hand on my shoulder and added “Please. Call me Vincent.”

The next day I rode the train into New York City with Vincent and his daughter Victoria, who had come for the last days of the event. At the train station we said goodbye and wished each other well. I didn’t realize it, but it would be the last time I ever spoke to Vincent Price. We stayed in touch via letters and cards over the years, and after I moved back to Los Angeles in the late 80s, I looked for an opportunity to get together. Unfortunately, that opportunity came with the event of the death of Vincent’s beloved wife Coral Browne (“the actress,” I can still hear him say in his recognizable voice) a few years later, in 1991. I attended the memorial ceremony for Coral Browne, which was led by their close friend, Hollywood stalwart Roddy McDowall. Vincent was practically overcome, surrounded by friends and family; I left without speaking with him. One year later, some mutual showbiz friends tried to arrange a surprise ‘reunion’ by inviting Vincent to dinner the same night as my wife and me. Unfortunately, by that point Vincent was too ill with emphysema and the effects of Parkinson’s disease to join us.

Although we continued to correspond, and Vincent wrote he hoped for a ‘reunion,’ one never came. He passed away in October, 1993, one week shy of Halloween.

I’ve had lots of great weeks in my life. But my favorite week? I’m hoping it’s yet to come – but in the meantime, the time I spent with my friend Vincent in the spring of 1984… that’ll serve well as ‘my favorite week.’

  1. Patti Van Slyke
    April 28th, 2010 at 14:58 | #1

    That is very sweet. What an amazing opportunity for someone with your talent and aspirations.

    What about your weekEND with me, you goof?

  2. Barrett
    April 28th, 2010 at 16:26 | #2

    Patti~

    We’re looking forward to seeing you guys in New Haven in just a few weeks! We’ll raise a toast to Vincent…

  3. A J Ford
    April 30th, 2010 at 14:07 | #3

    I think I now know why you have elected to be known as Barrett, rather than the Barry we know and love. Thank you for a touching and well-written memoir. We met Vincent Price only once, at a Yale reunion since he was class of 1933 and I was 1948, and we agree he was both charming and a gentleman.

  4. Barrett
    April 30th, 2010 at 14:51 | #4

    Thank you for your kind words – and for being my dad!

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